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Colgate University Names Brian W. Casey as 17th President

By Rebecca Downing on August 13, 2015
Portrait of Brian W. Casey

Brian W. Casey of DePauw University will serve as Colgate’s 17th President, beginning July 1, 2016. (Photo by Duncan Wolfe)

Colgate University’s Board of Trustees has named Brian W. Casey, the president of DePauw University, as Colgate’s 17th president.

Casey, who has a distinguished history with America’s top academic institutions as both a student and an administrator, said: “I am truly excited to begin my service at Colgate. I have long admired the academic excellence, rich traditions, and spirit of the university. Colgate is a distinctive institution in the American higher education landscape, with a unique scale and atmosphere. The university is also marked by a dedication to the achievement of excellence. Throughout the search process, I encountered members of the community committed to moving Colgate — even more than it is today — into the very highest ranks of American colleges and universities. To achieve that, I know I will be building on the work of the faculty, the leadership of the Colgate board, and the profound support of the university’s alumni. I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.” He will take office on July 1, 2016.

“Colgate is incredibly fortunate to have attracted such an experienced, proven, and nationally recognized leader as our 17th president,” said board chair Daniel B. Hurwitz ’86, P’17. “Throughout the search process, Brian displayed a deep understanding of all aspects of Colgate while exhibiting great respect and admiration for what makes the institution profoundly unique and excellent. He possesses a strong creative vision, coupled with an extraordinary record of collaborative leadership. I have no doubt that Brian will be embraced by the entire community and undoubtedly enhance Colgate’s strengths while effectively addressing various challenges.”

Search chair Michael Herling ’79, P’08,’10,’12, said, “The entire search committee is thrilled that Brian has agreed to join us as Colgate’s next president. Brian embodies all the characteristics and competencies that we hoped to find in the ideal candidate. In addition, we believe that his fit with Colgate and his understanding of Colgate’s distinctive strengths is truly compelling.”

“Brian was our unanimous first choice,” said search committee member Douglas Johnson, associate professor of psychology and director of Colgate’s Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research. “He recognizes the opportunities and challenges facing higher education, and he persuasively argues that academic excellence is the cornerstone of Colgate’s future. A strong supporter of faculty, he understands that the symbiotic relationship between teaching and scholarship is the bedrock of that excellence. Brian is a great unifier and creative leader — thoughtful, conversational, connected, and intellectual. He combines a sense of wonderment with a practical, analytical, and realistic understanding of how institutions of higher education operate. He will be a welcome addition to the Colgate family.”

Experienced Academic Leader

Born and raised in New Jersey, Casey earned a BA in philosophy and economics at the University of Notre Dame, where he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and graduated summa cum laude. Casey went on to earn his JD from Stanford University Law School, where he graduated with honors. After beginning his career as an attorney with the Wall Street firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell, Casey earned his PhD in the history of American civilization from Harvard University.

As a former captain of Notre Dame’s varsity swim team and the school’s 1985 “Scholar-Athlete of the Year,” Casey recognizes and appreciates the fine balance between academics and athletics.

He is known for relating well with students. “I had many conversations with students who wanted an energetic, visible, and involved president,” said Joanna Howe ’16, one of three student representatives on the search committee. “Brian encompasses exactly what we were looking for in a campus leader. He has a contagious energy, and his genuine care for students and student life is obvious. I was especially impressed when he told me he gets up and does morning practice with the swim team, and that he has dinners with students at his house and an open door policy for students to come talk to him. I’m so excited to welcome him!”

Prior to his appointment at DePauw in 2008, Casey served as associate dean for academic affairs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, leading faculty recruitment and development, as well as strategic academic planning.

Previously, as assistant provost at Brown University, he spearheaded a multidisciplinary approach to the study of commerce and entrepreneurship. He was a key figure in efforts to develop academic programs with Brown’s neighbor, the Rhode Island School of Design. He also helped to develop an international seminar that brought together faculty, students, and visiting fellows involved in the study of America’s past, across the departments of history, English, American civilization, anthropology, and Africana studies, and the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America.

As DePauw’s president, Casey has led an intense, comprehensive, and successful period of growth through DePauw 2020: The Plan for DePauw, a multi-year strategic plan for the university. He also led efforts to develop a comprehensive campus master plan, and, with the faculty, established a new general education curriculum. Under his leadership, DePauw has made major investments in academic programs, campus projects, student advising and postgraduate planning, as well as DePauw’s home city, Greencastle, Ind., and established and secured more than $56 million for The DePauw Trust, a dedicated endowment to support need-based financial aid.

To support student outcomes, Casey directed the creation of DePauw’s Hubbard Center for Student Engagement, a centralized home for comprehensive advising for off-campus study, internships, career planning, and pre-professional and graduate school preparation.

Less than a year after the October 2014 public launch of The Campaign for DePauw, the university had raised more than $220 million toward a $300 million goal. Casey has also led DePauw through six straight years of balanced budgets and saw a 51 percent increase in its endowment since 2008.

The Search Process

The board’s approval of Casey’s appointment followed his selection by a committee — 11 trustees, five faculty members, three current students, and a member of Colgate’s senior leadership team — that was formed in early February 2015, after former President Jeffrey Herbst announced that he would conclude his tenure at Colgate at the end of June 2015.

“The search process, with the great assistance of our colleagues at Spencer Stuart who facilitated thoughtful campus and alumni conversations, yielded an incredibly deep and talented pool of candidates,” said Herling. “It was clear to all of us that Brian rose to the top in every way, which made our decision a very easy one. I want to thank our committee members, who worked tirelessly through a very aggressive time schedule, particularly this summer, to reach this great outcome.”

“I am confident that Brian’s passion and enthusiasm for the liberal arts generally, and Colgate specifically, will be welcomed by the entire community when he joins the university next July,” said Hurwitz. “He will lead an institution with an unwavering commitment to the intrinsic value of a liberal arts education and a strong desire to nurture a living and learning environment responsive to the needs of a new generation of increasingly diverse students. In the meantime, Colgate is in excellent hands with Interim President Jill Harsin for the 2015–16 academic year.”

“I’m very pleased with the selection of Brian Casey as Colgate’s next president,” said Harsin. “I look forward to working with him over the next year to ensure a smooth transition while advancing our strategic priorities.”

“In this year of transition, I look forward to working with Interim President Harsin, members of the board, senior administrators, and the Colgate faculty to learn all I can about Colgate and to develop — with all these groups — a robust path forward for the institution,” said Casey. “I also look forward to joining the Hamilton community and, in the months ahead, to visiting campus and meeting as many faculty members and students as possible.”


  • Michael Rogers '92 said:

    All our best wishes to Dr. Casey for success in the future.
    – The Rogers family.

  • Frank Barrie '72 said:

    To add to Rick Stege’s comment, our future 17th president has an impressive intellectual background as well as the leadership, fund raising, athletic and social skills noted. I hope that someone at Colgate will share with him the article in the current Colgate Scene, “The other Class of 2015” reflective of the quality of Colgate teacher/scholars. Of the dozen professors, profiled as they retire from their Colgate positions, I had the privilege to learn from the masterful teacher Jane Pinchin. Not while I was a student at Colgate from 1968 to 1972 but as a participant, long distance over the internet, in the terrific Living Writers program. Sadly, the Living Writers program appears to have gone dormant with Jane’s retirement. Permit me to note that I met Jeff Herbst, Colgate’s 16th president, on a most memorable occasion when he was on a Living Writers panel discussing Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go To the Dogs Tonight. Jeff had spent time in Zimbabwe and his insights were terrific in discussing Fuller’s memoir about growing up in Rhodesia in the period it became Zimbabwe. Might I suggest that in addition to utilizing his leadership and fund raising skills and his commendable openness for diversity, our next president hopefully will find time to participate in an intellectual capacity too. Perhaps in a renewed Living Writers program?

  • JS said:

    Dr. Casey is indeed a very approachable president and a great fund raiser. I’m not so sure when it comes to creating a diverse international student body (unless 90% international students coming from China counts as diverse). Or when it comes to making DePauw an inclusive environment for minorities. Definitely some major issues there.

    The main issue I’ve always had with him, however, is that he always regarded and treated DePauw as a stepping stone in his career. We all knew that he wouldn’t stick around for long, and I’m afraid that’s the case with Colgate as well. I hope I’m wrong.

    I wish him all the luck in the world in his new position and may he do great things for Colgate.

  • Steve Solomon said:

    The Committee has performed a great service in selecting such a fine candidate to become Colgate’s 17th president.
    Not only does Brian Casey fulfill every conceivable requirement for this demanding position, but as a current college president he is a successful and proven leader.

    Go ‘gate!

    Steve Solomon ’76, MAT ’78

  • Jim Gribbon said:

    Brian appears to be a great selection with a very strong background. Congratulations to Brian and to the search committee.

    Best regards,

    Jim Gribbon”75 P’07

  • James P. Healy '55 said:

    This is very exciting news for all Colgate people; so, congratulations to the search committee for making an excellent choice, and to Mr Casey for his wisdom in accepting the presidency of Colgate. The “Play Like a Winner Today” spirit of the Irish that Brian Casey will bring should reinforce the dynamism of the Red Raiders. Who says that the blue, gold (and green!) of Notre Dame can’t inspire our maroon and white teams, and not just in sports, but all across our alma mater to advance the initiatives of “Living the Liberal Arts in Our Third Century.”

    Now we’ll see Deo ac Veritati meaningful at Colgate, which should make our thirteen men of yore happy again: “ever blessed thy days.”

  • David Blake said:

    Sounds interesting but was Dr Casey ever tenured anywhere? What is his experience in the classroom? In publications? I hope the university will distribute a revised press release that describes these important academic qualifications.

  • James V. Muzzy Jr. '67 said:

    As Chairman of and on behalf of “A Better Colgate” we congratulate Dr.Brian Casey and welcome the opportunity to work with and through him to developing a positive and helpful relationship between our independent alumni group and his leadership of Colgate in the future. We recognize that he is, obviously, a very strong, highly and diversely educated and extremely talented individual. We are especially pleased with his work with and support of students, his record of collaborative leadership and that he is further described as a great unifier.
    Welcome to the “Gate” Dr. Casey

  • Rick Stege said:


    Fast work given a difficult job.

    He sounds like a skilled fund-raiser which unfortunately is a necessary evil today. His athletic background will sit well with many alumni. He also seems personable and approachable. All good so far.

    I will be very interested to hear what his vision is for Colgate. That remains to be seen.

    Congratulations to the search committee.

  • Donald Lindeman '74 said:

    Given his academic and administrative accomplishments and experience, the appointment of Brian Casey as 17th president of Colgate looks promising, to say the least. Even the administration of a small liberal arts college can prove a significant challenge in our time, but it appears that Colgate has made yet another fine appointment. Congratulations to all.

  • JJ Shag said:

    Wow I remember Brian; we swam together on a Master’s swim team briefly during his Harvard years. He’s an excellent swimmer! I read later that he became the first openly gay university president at DePauww and did an excellent job there. He is very dynamic and just what Colgate needs to advance our agenda of excellence. Congrats and welcome to Brian!